Our last big toddler crafting project, the Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow, was such a big hit both for the fun creative process and finished piece that I decided to play with the technique a bit more for our next project together.
This time I thought we’d do something where the final colourful design could be cut and shaped afterwards, and so decided to use watercolour paper as the medium for the colour transfer. I used a very inexpensive, lower quality watercolour paper from The Works, and it worked perfectly for this project. There was very little warping and the colour transfer was good.
You will need:
- Four sheets of medium weight watercolour paper, or another sturdy paper with an absorbent surface
- A mixture of small torn pieces of tissue paper in various colours, no more than 5cm (4″) square
- Water spray bottle or large paintbrush
- Large hard-backed book or other flat weight
- Large plastic sandwich bag
- Scissors (optional, for use by adult)
- Leaves template (SVG file for cutting machine or PDF for cutting by hand, both optional)
Protect any surfaces with a plastic sheet as things may get wet and the dye in the tissue may transfer. Fill a trigger spray bottle with water. If preparing to make this project with a younger child or toddler, you may wish to pre-tear all of your shapes, as it can take a long while. Conversely your child may love the process of tearing the paper.
I made a ‘salad’ of autumnal leaf colours for my toddler. You might choose fresh and bright spring leaves, or deep and lush summer greens, but I decided on autumnal colours because they’re my favourite, but also because the European heat wave has prematurely turned all of our leaves to Autumn shades and they have been carpeting the neighbourhood for the last fortnight.
Making The Paper
The first step of this project is to turn your sheets of paper into beautifully watercoloured sheets to craft with.
Lay all for sheets out close together but not overlapping, and spray/brush liberally with clean water. Encourage your child to have fun laying the tissue paper shapes onto the wet sheets of paper, and keep dampening the paper if any areas start to dry.
As you start to build up layers of colour, help your child to fill in any white areas so that all four sheets are entire filled with coloured paper. The papers can and should overlap at least slightly so that all of your colours can run together and blur slightly.
Once your pieces of paper are fully covered, give them one last spray with water to ensure that all tissue paper shapes are wet through. Then, take two pieces of paper and lay them together so that both of their tissue shapes are pressed together. You should have a sandwich of a white piece of paper on the bottom, layers of wet coloured tissue in the middle, and white paper on the top. repeat with the other two covered sheets of paper and then put one paper ‘sandwich’ on top of the other.
Put a large, hard-backed book into a sandwich bag and tie to close, for protection of the book. Put this weight on top of your paper stack and give the whole thing a good press down all over. Leave for one hour or more with the weight in place.
After sufficient time has passed, separate the sheets of paper and leave tissue-paper side up to dry. It does not matter if the pieces of tissue paper are not on the sheet of paper where they originally started out for this step.
Once dry, let your child enjoy the fun of removing all of the pieces of tissue paper and revealing their creation beneath. These can be disposed of, or make great craft materials of their own, either to use with your watercolour leaves or in other projects. The subtleties of the changed colours are hard to find in commercial tissue paper as bought, so consider keeping them for other artworks.
You should have four beautiful watercolour-style sheets of paper.
Making The Leaves
There are many ways to make a pile of beautiful leaves from your paper. Older children may enjoy freehand cutting different leaf shapes, folding small pieces of the paper in half and cutting a curve to form a leaf, or cutting leaves from a template. Younger children might wish to tear leaf shapes, or have an adult help to cut the leaves for them.
I’ve created a few leaf templates that can be used, some more complex than others, according to ability and tools. To hand-cut the leaves, make a fold in one of your watercolour sheet and place one of the leaf templates cut from the template file along the folded edge, and cut around it. I have also created an SVG file for use with cutting machine software, should you happen to have a cutting machine.
Once your leaves are cut, fold each one in half to give the finished shapes a little extra dimension to the individual leaves. Though this step is not entire necessary, it really give a great finished form to the leaves. The folds do not have to be perfectly placed, so it is a great time to practice a bit of paper-folding with your favourite toddler(s).
Once you have finished folding, you should have a little pile of leaves that would grace any autumn walk. all creases and inconsistencies in the paper add natural variety to the leaves. They are now ready to use in a wide range of craft projects or even to display in a bowl. We have a specific project in mind for these leaves, so part two of this tutorial will follow soon…